What is the Windows Contacts Folder and Why Do You Need it?

Windows has quite a few special folders, and if you add cloud storage, then you probably have more. Regardless, all of them make sense except the Contacts folder. What is the Contacts folder? Does it serve a purpose?

TL;DR: If you don’t feel like reading the whole article, you want to delete the Contacts folder, and there’s nothing in it, you can feel comfortable that deleting the folder won’t cause any problems for most people. If you want to learn more about it, keep reading.

What is the Contacts Folder?

The Contacts folder is a special folder, in that doesn’t have an absolute path, and can thus be relocated but still found by applications that depend upon it. But, Windows Contacts, as it is actually called, is also a full-fledged contacts manager, complete with all kinds of functionality that you’d expect to find in a typical address book.

Windows Contacts first appeared in Windows Vista and was meant to replace the Windows Address Book (WAB), which appeared in 1996 as part of Internet Explorer 3 and was often most used with Outlook Express, which was included with Windows before it was replaced by Windows Mail.

Windows Address Book in Windows 98SE

The Windows Address Book continued to exist through Windows XP, but took a big hit when the ILOVEYOU worm used it as vector through which to propagate.

In Vista, WAB was replaced by Windows Contacts, which we now find today. The biggest difference between WAB and Contacts is that the former stores its contacts in a local database, while Windows Contacts is a folder, and contacts are stored as individual files with a .CONTACTS extension.

Today, there seems to be no substantive reason to have Windows Contacts. You can use it with other applications, such as Outlook and Windows Mail, but those applications have their own address books. Moreover, if you use another type of e-mail, such as Gmail or Yahoo! Mail, then you most surely use the address book with those.

The Windows Contacts (Manager) Folder

Windows Contacts can be accessed from Windows Vista Start menu. In Windows 7 and 8, you can browse to your user folder and open it directly.

Alternatively, you can open it with Run or Search by typing “wab.exe” or “contacts”.

Your Contacts folder is almost guaranteed to be empty. Notice, at the top of the folder are functions (highlighted in yellow), which apply specifically to contacts management.

You can create a “New Contact”, which you can fill up and round out with a wealth of information, such as your name, e-mail, home and/or work details, and also family information such as birthdate, spouse, and children. Of course, you can also add a picture too.

You can create groups of contacts, so you can simply e-mail the group instead of adding each name to a message individually.

If you don’t want to create all your contacts from scratch, you can import them from a .CSV file, vCard(s), an LDAP Data Interchange Format file (LDIF), or an old school .WAB file, such as if you still have an old Outlook Express installation that you want to export from.

Alternatively, if you decide to use Windows Contacts for all your contact management needs, you can export them to vCards, or a .CSV file, which is generally a safe bet for almost all e-mail clients and services.

Also, because Windows Contacts is a “special” folder, it can be moved to another location, such as a separate partition or cloud-connected folder.

Finally, if you select one, several, or all your contacts, you can print them as memos, business cards, or a phone list.

In the end, the Contacts folder doesn’t take up drive space or affect performance in any way. It’s fairly unlikely, unless you use Windows Live Messenger or Windows Live Mail, that you’ll ever need Windows Contacts. The long and short of it is that you could use Windows Contacts to manage your contacts, but you probably just defer to the the address book in Outlook or Gmail, or whatever you use for your primary e-mail.

With that in mind, you can probably delete it with no ill effects though we’d recommend you hide it just to be on the safe side.

Matt Klein is an aspiring Florida beach bum, displaced honorary Texan, and dyed-in-wool Ohio State Buckeye, who fancies himself a nerd-of-all-trades. His favorite topics might include operating systems, BBQ, roller skating, and trying to figure out how to explain quantum computers.